The Rarest of Pearls
Updated: Feb 6, 2019
Some women are particularly drawn to pearls. I too prefer the silky glow of pearls against my face than the sparkle of a brilliant gemstone. Pearls today are cultured, be they Japanese Akoya, Chinese freshwater, South Seas or Tahitian. The culturing process requires human intervention. Natural (uncultured) saltwater pearls are treasured for their rarity, and therefore appeal to a specific collector. I recently had the extraordinary pleasure of viewing some of the world's rarest pearls -- pink conchs, in a beautiful collection of jewelry at Neiman Marcus by designer Cicada. (It's pronounced like "conk" on the head, btw.) Conch pearls are produced by the Queen conch mollusk that is harvested for its meat in the Caribbean. All conch pearls are natural pearls, not cultured. The discovery of each of these pearls is a happy accident, with just one pearl found among 10,000 mollusks. Of that number, only 10 percent are gem quality, with pink being the most prized color.
The finest conch pearls possess a phenomena gemologically described as "chatoyancy," which is the play-of-light one can see in a cat's-eye Chrysoberyl, for example. In a conch pearl it appears as a flame pattern, and the more visible the flame, the rarer the pearl. Considering the extreme scarcity of these gems, I could not imagine the time and effort required to assemble a matching pair. Which is why I found these earrings at NM's Precious Jewels Salon to be so special that they took my breath away. Dropping from simple strands of diamond beads, the two conchs dangled quietly, needing no additional frippery to enhance their beauty. I could imagine them hanging on the ear in understated elegance. As a gemologist, it is always a very special treat to see something so unique, and I appreciated the opportunity to do so. Now to find them the right home . . .